In the 'war on terror', many hundreds of people have been imprisoned without charge or trial by the US and UK governments - at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan, Iraq, the United States and the United Kingdom.

These people can be held indefinitely without trial and have reportedly been kept in conditions amounting to torture. Most are not allowed access to families or lawyers. At Guantanamo they face a closed military tribunal with prosecution, defence and judge appointed by the US military. In the UK 16 detainees have been held without charge in Belmarsh Prison since December 2001. The rejection of recent appeals means that detainees now face indefinite detention. More generally, UK anti-terrorism legislation is being used to harass migrant and refugee communities and suppress dissent, fan the flames of racial hatred and restrict the right of free speech.

We call on the UK and US governments
- to abandon all forms of internment without trial.
- to immediately release those imprisoned without trial or charge them and conduct a fair and transparent trial.

We call on the UK government
- to secure the release of all nine British citizens and two British residents held in Guantanamo, for freedom or fair trial in Britain
- to demand the freedom or fair trial of all prisoners at Guantanamo.
- to end the use of anti-terrorism legislation to harass migrant and refugee communities and suppress dissent

Sponsored by: Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Peace and Justice in East London, Pax Christi, Voices UK, City Circle, JustPeace, The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, Association of Muslim Lawyers, The Green Party of England and Wales, Peace and Progress.


"Secrecy has been chosen over due process and is a dangerous precedent for the future, not just for these detainees. Their arrest and continuing detention without due process marks the entry of this country into a new dark age of injustice."
From a statement made on behalf of detainees in the UK by solicitor Gareth Peirce, following the decisions made by SIAC, 28 October 2003.

At Guantanamo Bay, detainees are held indefinitely without prospect of a fair trial, since they face a military tribunal appointed by the US government, whose head, President Bush, has already publicly condemned them as guilty.

They have been interrogated continuously for almost two years, in conditions that amount to torture, without access to any lawyer. US-based Australian lawyer Richard Bourke, who represents some of the detainees, said that the US military are engaging in good old-fashioned torture, as people would have understood it in the Dark Ages. One of the detainees had described being taken out and tied to a post and having rubber bullets fired at them. They were being made to kneel cruciform in the sun until they collapsed. (ABC News, 8 October 2003)

Trials, if they happen at all, will be based upon confessions obtained wholly unlawfully. International law prohibits interrogation of prisoners of war. The Third Geneva Convention calls for a properly constituted tribunal to decide whether persons captured during a conflict are prisoners of war, who must be treated humanely, or civilians taken in error, who must be released.

Of the nine British citizens held at Guantanamo, the British government has said there is nothing with which two of them - Feroz Abbasi and Moazzem Begg - could be charged with under British law.

British residents Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi resident in Britain for 19 years, and Jamil al Banna, a Jordanian granted refugee status in Britain, were arrested on a business trip to the Gambia and handed to CIA agents with the collaboration of the British High Commission. They were sent first to Bagram in Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo. No evidence has been produced against them except possession of an Argos battery charger, for which 'crime' the British authorities let them go after stopping them at Gatwick.

In Britain 16 people have been detained since December 2001 without trial for an indefinite period under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) 2001. Their appeals against detention are being heard by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which uses evidence - some of it obtained under duress from Guantanamo Bay prisoners - which is kept secret even from the detainees.

Ten of the detainees lost their appeals against detention at SIAC on 29 October. Gareth Peirce, the solicitor acting for eight of the men, criticised the deference shown to the security services and the government. The same political agenda that created weapons of mass destruction, and claimed there was an immediate threat to this country, has created a wish to find danger from the presence in this country of these appellants, she said. Amnesty International said that the judgement was a perversion of justice. An Amnesty spokesperson said, The shockingly low burden of proof, which the SlAC ruled that the Secretary of State had met, violates the right to the presumption of innocence.

23 political organisations in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, Kurdistan and Sri Lanka have been banned under the Terrorism Act 2000, including several never accused of any violent act on British soil and others not engaged in armed struggle anywhere. 'Terrorism' is being used as an excuse to detain, interrogate and intimidate migrant and refugee communities. These perversions of justice and violations of human rights are taking place despite the multiple powers the state already has to deal adequately with violent crime or its planning. Anti-terrorism laws are also being used to suppress political dissent and legal protest.

In the United States, Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and UK authorities are holding a large number of detainees without charge or trial under anti-terrorism legislation, or merely as security detainees.

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Jamie McgrathBy:
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